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Road to the Coliseum: Ty Wishart

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
Ty Wishart can’t remember a time that he wasn’t skating. As soon as he could walk, his parents began taking him out on the ponds near their home in Trenton, Ontario and he began playing organized hockey at six.

Two years later, the Wishart’s moved from Trenton to Comox, British Columbia, and from that point on, Wishart was a Comox Valley Chief with NHL dreams.

“I kind of always thought it was possible,” Wishart said. “I always told my parents that’s what I want to do. They always said get your education and let hockey sort itself out. Maybe, when I got drafted by the Western (Hockey) League and then when I got drafted by San Jose it became a real possibility then.”

Wishart was drafted in the second round of the 2004 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft by the Prince George Cougars, 300 miles from Comox Valley.

“I loved it,” Wishart said about Prince George. “I loved the city. I loved the people there. I had a lot of great teammates. We made the third round one year, the conference finals, but other than that, we were kind of the bottom dwellers for a few years. But it’s a good organization. I learned a lot.”

Each year with Prince George, Wishart improved, seeing his point totals rise from 8 to 37 to 49 to 67.

“It was nice to see the development every year in points,” Wishart said. “I had a really good coach in Prince George, Stu (Stewart) Malgunas. He really helped me when I was 16 and 17-years-old. He’d stay after with the guys and do some development. He definitely was a huge contribution to my growth in hockey.”

Ty Wishart skates against the Anaheim Ducks during the consolation game of the 2006 NHL Pacific Division Shootout at the Toyota Sports Center on September 12, 2006 in El Segundo, California. (Photo by: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
After his second WHL season, Wishart was selected by the San Jose Sharks in the first round (16th overall) of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.

“It was a pretty exciting time, to get drafted to San Jose,” Wishart said. “One of the first posters I ever bought was a San Jose Sharks poster. My parents brought it out after I got drafted. It wasn’t like they were my favorite team, I just liked the logo. It was kind of weird, that’s for sure.”

Half way through his fourth season, Wishart was traded to the Moose Jaw Warriors.

“I kind of saw it coming,” Wishart said. “We were a last-place team and we obviously weren’t going to make the playoffs. So a lot of teams were shopping around for older defensemen. I didn’t know I was going to go to Moose Jaw, but I had a couple buddies on the team who told me they were trying to get me traded there. They were trying to persuade the GM.”

Wishart added, “I got traded with my best buddy on the team, Evan Fuller, so that was kind of nice having him make the transition with me. Then I ran into five or six friends who already played there. We should have been a Memorial Cup contender that year, but we lost out in the first round to Calgary.”

That memory of what could have been left Wishart with a sour taste in his mouth.

“We had such a talented team,” Wishart said. “That’s when I played with Travis (Hamonic) and Keaton Ellerby, who now plays in Florida. There were a lot of guys who are playing AHL or NHL now, from that team. So it was definitely an underachieving playoff.”

As such a high draftee, the 6’4”, 222-pound d-man was sure to have a bright future ahead of him, but his professional career got off to a somewhat tumultuous start.

After his short run with Brandon, Wishart dressed in five games for the Worcester Sharks of the American Hockey League. Later that summer, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“It was a little bit of a shock,” Wishart said. “I talked to Doug Wilson (General Manager of the Sharks) after and he was obviously sad, but he couldn’t really pass up the D-men (Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich) that he got, so that’s part of the business. I wasn’t too upset about it.”

Ty Wishart watches the action from the bench during the 2008 NHL Prospects Tournament on September 16, 2008 at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)
The next season (2008-09), Wishart played for the Norfolk Admirals full-time, but he also received his first-ever NHL call-up. He played one game for the Lightning against the Hurricanes on Jan. 3, 2009 before being sent back to Norfolk.

“My D partner was Marek Malik,” Wishart said of his first NHL game. “My first shift, I was pretty nervous when I got out there, but as soon as I got the puck, it sort of all went away and I started playing my game again. Getting on the ice, taking my first couple of strides was nerve racking.”

After five NHL games in 2008-09, Wishart played the entire 2009-10 season with the Norfolk Admirals, not receiving a single call-up.

Almost two years to the day of his first NHL call-up, Wishart was on pins and needles. He had been a healthy scratch for consecutive games in the AHL for the first time in his career. With no explanation, the defenseman was unsure of his predicament and was starting to become nervous. To his surprise, Wishart learned he had been traded to the New York Islanders in exchange for goaltender Dwayne Roloson.

“I was going to go talk to the coach, but then the last game in Wilkes-Barre the GM came to me,” Wishart said. “I was kind of getting rattled at this point and he said, oh yeah, we’ve been trying to trade you. I was shocked at first, but I said goodbye to the boys, went back to the hotel and I was in Bridgeport the next day.”

While it came as a shock, Wishart made the most of his newest opportunity. He played in 12 games for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers before he received his first call-up (Jan. 31) with the franchise and made his Islanders debut Feb. 5. With the Islanders, he played his first real chunk of NHL games, 13 to be exact, before he was returned to the Sound Tigers on Mar. 7.

“I wanted to make the most of my opportunity of getting a shot at a consistent string of games,” Wishart said. “So it was definitely something I hadn’t had before. It was a lot easier to get used to than down for one (game), up for one, stuff like that.”

Ty Wishart #6 of the New York Islanders skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on March 30, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Islanders 3-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
A few weeks later (Mar. 25), Wishart received his second Islanders call-up and would remain with the club through the remainder of the regular season. He’d complete the year with career-high marks in games played (20), goals (1), assists (4), points (5) and plus-minus rating (5).

“Just the confidence that comes with playing those games is huge,” Wishart said of his 20 games. “When you’re going for one game at a time, it’s kind of tough to get into the rhythm of the game. You’re only playing 10-12 minutes and you don’t really get to experience the full NHL, really. You’re a call-up and you’re going home tomorrow. So it’s definitely nice to actually show what you have more than once.”

Now, heading into his fourth full professional season, Wishart hopes he’ll be able to make his dream a reality, first by making the Islanders out of training camp.

“My goal for this season is to stick around all year,” Wishart said. “I’m going to go into training camp and I’m going to want to make the team right away, so I’m going to show what I have and see what happens.”

With his road to the Coliseum still ongoing, the 23-year-old knows that nothing but his best will make that goal a reality and give him the opportunity to play his first full NHL season.
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